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Wildfires destroying plantations in Zimbabwe

HARARE, (The Southern African Times) – Like many other parts of the world, the Chimanimani district in the landlocked southern African country of Zimbabwe is witnessing wildfires since June, destroying trees and exposing the soil to possible landslides.

According to estate owners, at least 4,000 hectares of plantations have been destroyed in the district.

“Parts of Saurombe Estate and the National Parks were gutted. The soil is now exposed to the extent that in the event of a cyclone we could face worse landslides,” said Pardon Maguta, the director and founder of Chimanimani Environmental and Climate Institute.

He said several forest companies, who collect timber from Chimanimani, have been affected due to uncontrolled fires.

The district of Chimanimani has been experiencing most of the wildfires in the entire Manicaland province as it is home to the biggest wattle and pine timber plantations in the country.

Ngorima said the wildfires also result due to land disputes as well and are ignited by some people, who want to settle on these lands.

In Zimbabwe, the land redistribution exercise had started in the early 2000 and was finalized in 2020. He said those who want to occupy land often burn the plantation to frustrate the forest companies into ceding some of the lands.

Another tree plantation owner in the Rusitu area in Chimanimani said that gold mining is also damaging the soil. The pits have been dug everywhere posing serious challenges in the event of heavy rains in the future.

According to Chimanimani District Administrator Joseph Manyurapasi, incidents of wildfires this year have gone down after the establishment of committees comprising of local chiefs, headmen, and councilors.

“The committees were formed after noting huge losses that were recorded in 2020 due to bushfires. We recorded several fires last year hence we have come up with the committee to combat the challenge,” he said.

Minister of Environment, Climate, Tourism Mangaliso Ndhlovu says the country loses over a million hectares of forests and grasslands each year to bushfires. According to him, the annual average burnt area from 2010-2020 is one million hectares.

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